Rest in peace, Leonard Boswell

Former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell passed away on August 17 at the age of 84. He had long battled a rare cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei. Boswell publicly speculated in 2015 that exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War could have caused his abdominal tumors. According to a former staff member, a link to the powerful herbicide was later confirmed. In a recorded message to Iowa Democrats last year, Boswell said his doctors agreed that his disease stemmed from getting “pretty well soaked” while flying a crop-duster mission.

Surviving two tours of duty as an assault helicopter pilot in Vietnam was itself beating the odds. Boswell received numerous honors for his actions in that extremely dangerous role.

Following 20 years of military service, Boswell became a cattle farmer in southern Iowa. First elected to the Iowa Senate in 1984, he served three terms in the legislature, the last as Senate president. He was well-liked in Democratic circles. When I met him briefly during the 1994 campaign (he was the lieutenant governor nominee on a ticket with Bonnie Campbell), he seemed to have a larger-than-life personality.

After winning an open U.S. House seat in 1996, Boswell represented parts of central and southern Iowa in Congress for sixteen years. His proudest legislative accomplishment was sponsoring the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, which President George W. Bush signed in 2007. Though he belonged to the conservative “Blue Dog” caucus, Boswell voted for the major legislation of President Barack Obama’s first term, including the economic stimulus bill and the Affordable Care Act.

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Fifteen women, seven men apply for Iowa Supreme Court vacancy

Federal courts will be lost for a generation as an avenue for protecting civil liberties, now that President Donald Trump will be able to replace U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in addition to stacking district and circuit courts with dozens of right-wing ideologues. (Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield and Eighth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Steven Colloton were on the list of 21 possible Supreme Court picks Trump released during the 2016 campaign.) The growing conservative grip on the federal courts means more and more important legal battles will be fought at the state level.

Governor Kim Reynolds will fill an Iowa Supreme Court vacancy later this year, after Justice Bruce Zager retires. Today the judicial branch published the applications for fifteen women and seven men who are seeking to replace Zager.

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Iowa court strikes down state ban on Medicaid coverage for transgender care

A two-decade-old state administrative rule “clearly discriminates against transgender Medicaid recipients on the basis of gender identity by excluding coverage for medically necessary gender affirming surgery” while covering the same surgeries for non-transgender Iowans, a Polk County District Court ruled on June 7. Chief Judge Arthur Gamble found the rule violates both Article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution, which guarantees equal protection, and the Iowa Civil Rights Act, which has prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity since 2007.

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Iowa legislative recap: Senate confirmations

Continuing a series on news from the Iowa legislature’s 2018 session that attracted little attention before lawmakers adjourned for the year.

The Iowa Senate confirmed almost everyone Governor Kim Reynolds nominated for a state board or commission this year with unanimous or near-unanimous support. However, opposition from Democratic senators blocked three of the governor’s more than 200 appointees (full list here).

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Choose hope: Vote Nate Boulton for governor

Cody Woodruff is a rising junior studying political science and speech communication at Iowa State University and a member of the Carlisle School Board. -promoted by desmoinesdem

“Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future.” -Elie Wiesel, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize speech

When I began to write this piece, it began as your usual endorsement that we’re all accustomed to reading. However, that’s not what it turned into. We live in unusual times, so the case I’m going to make is unconventional, but hopefully more compelling than an average editorial. Many of us know where the candidates stand on the issues, we have a general idea of each candidate’s electability, and we’re aware of their background. If someone doesn’t know these things already, there are plenty of resources out there to check out, because I’m not going to talk about them here.

The focus of this piece is on one simple, powerful, extraordinary thing: hope.

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